UPSC MAINS 2019: National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)


Topic: National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

Topic in Syllabus: GS Paper 3 : Ecology & Environment

National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)


Why in news?

Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, recently launched the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) that aims to reduce toxic particulate matter by 2024, taking 2017 as the base year.



  • India is committed to clean environment and pollution free air and water. In fact, it is mandated in our constitution. India’s commitments and obligations to conservation and protection of environment within the ambit of targeted goals on environmental sustainability under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)is manifested in the fact that several administrative and regulatory measures including a separate statute on air and water pollution are under implementation since long.
  • The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, was enacted under Art. 253 of the Constitution to implement the decisions taken at the United Nations Conference on Human Environment held at Stockholm in June 1972, in which India participated. Sustainable development, in terms of enhancement of human well- being, is an integral part of India’s development philosophy.
  • However, a vast country and an emerging economy like India, face enormous challenges with its burgeoning population and widespread poverty, in meeting its various other significant commitments associated with poverty and hunger eradication under the SDGs.
  • India has been going through a phase of accelerated industrial activities for the past three decades. The associated growth in terms of industrialization and urbanization has led to manifold increase in pollution issues more specifically air pollution issues.
  • In recent years, medium and small towns and cities have also witnessed spurt in pollution thus getting fast reflected in the non-attainment cities of India. Air pollution has increasingly been becoming a serious concern, predominantly for health of the people.
  • The reported perplexing statistics in various international reports, drawing correlation of air pollution with various aggravated figures on health, without validation on Indian population further complicates the issues by creating a flawed public perception.
  • Air pollution emission issues are associated with many sectors which inter-alia include power, transport, industry, residential, construction, and agriculture.
  • The impact of air pollution is not limited to health but it gets extended to agriculture and general well-being of human, floral and faunal population. Furthermore, since air pollution is not a localized phenomenon, the effect is felt in cities and towns far away from the source. Thus creating the need of inter-state and inert-city coordination in addition to multi-sectoral synchronization.
  • While the problem of air pollution is mainly urban centric, studies shows the regional scale pollution, which is more concentrated in entire Indo-Gangetic plains of India and more industrialized states? Incidences of episodic air pollution during winters in Delhi NCR in recent years has attracted
  • Significant media attention thus bringing the entire issue of air pollution under regular public scrutiny.
  • With these recent policy interventions, air quality has purportedly shown some minor improvement in some major cities in recent time which as of now cannot be called as trend. This is not sufficient and higher level of focused time bound initiatives at both city and rural level now appear obligatory to address the issue in comprehensive manner at national level.
  • It is in this context, the need for a National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)-India as national level strategies for reduction in air pollution levels at both regional and urban scales is felt.


Objective of NCAP:

  • The NCAP aspires to overcome the deficits of the ongoing government initiatives targeted towards air pollution control. It lays down a comprehensive strategy framework for enhanced management of air quality.
  • Augmentation of existing air quality monitoring network by increasing number of existing manual and continuous monitoring stations, introducing rural monitoring stations, identifying alternative technology for real-time monitoring network and augmenting capabilities of existing monitoring stations to measure PM2.5 concentration, are integral components of the strategy framework. 
  • Devising air quality management plans for 100 non-attainment cities calls for detailed source apportionment (identification of pollution sources) studies for each city. The document stresses the need for taking up these studies in a phased manner. In addition to setting up of an Air Information Centre that would analyses and disseminate monitored data, an Air Quality Forecasting system is also being envisioned.
  • In addition to city-specific source apportionment studies, the NCAP lays down the need for a national-level emission inventory. A technology assessment cell for evaluation of new pollution prevention and control technologies has also been proposed.
  • The document highlights lack of indigenous studies establishing the correlation between exposure to air pollution and human health. A high-level apex committee and working group has, therefore, been constituted under the Indian Council of Medical Research and the MoEF&CC to overcome this deficit.
  • The NCAP certainly has lofty aspirations for formalizing an air quality management system in our country backed by science, technology and data. A budget amounting to Rs 637 crore has been set aside for aiding implementation of the programme. The document lays down specific targets and timelines for each initiative listed under the programme.
  • To augment and evolve effective and proficient ambient air quality monitoring network across the country for ensuring comprehensive and reliable database
  • To have efficient data dissemination and public outreach mechanism for timely measures for prevention and mitigation of air pollution and for inclusive public participation in both planning and implementation of the programmes and policies of government on air pollution
  • To have feasible management plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.
  • The concept note acknowledges that while recent policy interventions like notification of sector-specific emission standards, augmentation of air quality monitoring network, banning the burning of biomass and leapfrogging from BSIV to BSVI for vehicles by April 1, 2020 have resulted in marginal improvements in air quality levels, the need for time-bound initiatives at both city and rural level are absolutely essential to combat the problem of air pollution in our country holistically, thus substantiating the need for the NCAP.
  • The intended goal of the programme is to meet the “annual average air quality standards at all locations in the country in a stipulated timeframe”. In order to achieve this, all the 100 non-attainment cities would have to design city-specific action plans with specific timelines for implementation of listed initiatives.


In order to address the issue, Government has undertaken many significant steps which inter-alia includes

  • notification of National Ambient Air Quality Standards and sector specific emission and effluent standards for industries
  • setting up of monitoring network for assessment of ambient air quality
  • introduction of cleaner gaseous fuels like CNG, LPG etc and ethanol blending
  • launching of National Air Quality Index (AQI)
  • universalization of BS- IV for vehicles by 2017
  • leapfrogging from BS-IV to BS-VI standards for vehicles by 1st April, 2020
  • banning of burning of biomass
  • promotion of public transport network
  • Pollution Under Control Certificate
  • issuance of directions under Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  • installation of on-line continuous (24×7) monitoring devices by 17 highly polluting industrial sectors
  • ban on bursting of sound emitting crackers between 10 PM to 6 AM
  • Notification of graded response action plan for Delhi and NCR identifying source wise actions for various levels of air pollution, etc.


Approach of the national clean air program:

Collaborative, Multi-scale and Cross-Sectoral Coordination between relevant Central Ministries, State Government and local bodies. Focus on no Regret Measures, Participatory and Disciplined approach.


Highlights of National Clean Air Programme:

National Clean Air Programme framework has the following aspects which is the right beginning towards formulating region/state/city centric action plans.

  • The discussion within MoEF&CC signifies a target of 35% reduction of air pollution in the next three years and 50% reduction in the next five years for at-least 102 cities across India.
  • The Environment Ministry has announced a budget of Rs 300 crore for two years to tackle air pollution across 102 cities, which have been identified by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for not meeting the pollution standards set by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
  • Also, city-specific action plans are being formulated for 102 non-attainment cities identified for implementing mitigation actions under NCAP.
  • The Smart Cities programme will be used to launch the NCAP in the 43 smart cities falling in the list of the 102 non-attainment cities.
  • The programme will be institutionalized by respective ministries and will be organized through inter-sectoral groups, which include, Ministry of Road Transport and Highway, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Ministry of Heavy Industry, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, NITI Aayog, CPCB, experts from the industry, academia, and civil society.
  • Other features of NCAP include the increasing number of monitoring stations in the country including rural monitoring stations, technology support, emphasis on awareness and capacity building initiatives, setting up of certification agencies for monitoring equipment, source apportionment studies, emphasis on enforcement, and specific sectoral interventions.
  • Sectoral working groups, national level Project Monitoring Unit, Project Implementation Unit, state-level project monitoring unit, city level review committee under the Municipal Commissioner and DM level Committee in the Districts will also be constituted under NCAP for effective implementation and success of the programme.
  • The framework emphasizes on increasing manual monitoring station from 684 to 1000 stations across the country and CAAQMS to 268 from existing 84.
  • Increasing PM2.5 monitoring infrastructure from 67 stations to all NAMP stations (proposed number is 1000).
  • Tackling pollution from various sources across the country, identifies power, transport, industry, residential and agriculture sectors and along with inter-city regional pollution background from areas outside city boundary limits, i.e., interstate approaches
  • Data dissemination to the public, inclusive public participation on planning and implementation for the National Clean Air Programme
  • Setting up of Air Information Center for data analysis, interpretation, dissemination including GIS platforms
  • Envisaging Air Quality Forecasting System as a state of the art modeling system, which forecasts the following day’s air quality.
  • Building up of an updated national emission inventory etc.


Drawbacks of National Clean Air Program (NCAP):

  • The document mentions emission reduction targets, nowhere does it actually quantify these targets. However, the draft concept note for NCAP released earlier in March, which included the minutes of the meeting held on September 5, 2017, clearly listed specific targets to reduce 35 per cent pollution levels in the next three years and 50 per cent pollution levels in the next five years. These targets don’t find a mention in the concept note.
  • It will be interesting to observe whether NCAP’s well-intended and ambitious initiatives without quantified targets would result in significant impact or not.
  • The merit of backing action planning with city-specific data cannot be discounted, but, generating data on source contribution and preparing city-level emission inventories is a continuous and time-consuming process that should not delay the clean air action planning process.


Initiatives under NCAP:

  • Augmenting Air Quality Monitoring Network : National air quality monitoring network to be revisited, past data to be analyzed for rationalization of monitored parameters, and monitoring needs be reassessed for augmenting the monitoring network adopting optimum blending of techniques such as manual, continuous, sensor & satellite based techniques.
  • Air Quality Management Plan for 100 Non-Attainment Cities: The city action plans need to be guided by a comprehensive science based approach involving (i) identification of emission sources; (ii) assessment of extent of contribution of these sources; (iii) prioritizing the sources that need to be tackled; (iv) evaluation of various options for controlling the sources with regard to feasibility and economic viability; and (v) formulation of action plans.
  • Indoor Air Pollution Monitoring & Management: It refers to the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of air in the indoor environment within a home, building, or an institution or commercial facility.
  • Air Pollution Health Impact Studies
  • Setting up Air Information Centre
  • Certification system for monitoring instruments
  • Air Quality Forecasting System
  • Extensive Plantation Drive
  • Issuance of Notification on Dust Management (Road dust and C&D)
  • Intensive Awareness, Training and Capacity Building Drive
  • Three tier mechanism for review of monitoring, assessment and inspection for implementation
  • National Emission Inventory: An emission inventory is an accounting of the amount of pollutants discharged into the atmosphere. An emission inventory usually contains the total emissions for one or more specific air pollutants, originating from all source categories in a certain geographical area and within a specified time span, usually a specific year. Emissions and releases to the environment are the starting point of every environmental pollution problem.
  • Network of Technical Institutions: Knowledge Partners Network of highly qualified and experienced academicians, academic administrators and technical institutions in the area of air pollution will be created to provide holistic services for the establishment and operation of policies and programmes of Government of India on air pollution.
  • Technology Assessment Cell: Technology Assessment Cell is being envisaged to evaluate the technologies having significance in reference to prevention, control and abatement of pollution. The cell is expected to focus on both indigenous and international monitoring and abatement technologies. It is also expected to contribute towards evaluating the technology and devising the mechanism of technology transfer under various bilateral and multilateral agreements.
  • International Cooperation including sharing of International Best Practices on Air Pollution
  • Extending source apportionment studies to all non-attainment cities: Source apportionment study, which is primarily based on measurements and tracking down the sources through receptor modelling, helps in identifying the sources and extent of their contribution. Source apportionment studies which have been initiated in six major cities viz. (i) Delhi; (ii) Mumbai; (iii) Chennai; (iv) Bangalore; (v) Pune; and (vi) Kanpur at present is planned to be extended to all 94 non-attainments.
  • Review of ambient air quality standards and emission standards
  • Institutional Framework: An effective institutional framework which basically refers to formal organisational structures is the precondition for the successful implementation of pollution specifically air pollution related intervention tools and therefore needs to be considered in particular.


Sample Question:

With respect to National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) how Centre plans to wage a ‘war against pollution’? Discuss.